Understanding Defensive Strategies 2

What do we consciously avoid in intimate relationships?

Marriage is often considered mystifying because it takes a lot of courage to commit to one person for the rest of your life.

Of course, there’s still the option to separate from that person but there is definitely an idealism that when you commit to someone, you should try to make it work.

Married couples often fall apart because they are unable to manage conflict within their relationships.

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Marriage is not exactly synonymous with conflict, but conflict is something that should be considered a normal outcome of committing to another person at such a deep level.

What does marriage change?

When you choose to trust and love someone so much that you marry him/her, you’re creating a unique path for yourself because you now have your spouse by your side. There are some golden couples out there who seem to have found the perfect formula for marriage.

I’ve met people who say they’ve been married for more than 50 years and they’ve never really been unhappy with each other. The idea that you can spend half a century with your spouse and not encounter serious conflicts is an inspiring thought indeed.

Unfortunately, we can’t all be like these golden couples.

We’re all unique and obviously, we have different visions of what the perfect marriage should be. These marked differences cause the most number of conflicts in a marriage.

What do we try to avoid as much as possible?

People create defenses for themselves when they are faced with the following:

1. Being abandoned in any way by one’s spouse

2. Having your ideas and plans rejected

3. Feeling like a less than ideal wife or husband

4. Feelings of isolation and loneliness

5. Not being understood properly

6. Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness

7. Mental and emotional fatigue

8. Being mentally and emotionally dominated by a controlling wife or husband

9. Any form of fear

10. Feeling guilty for something real or imagined

11. Feeling humiliated for something that was/wasn’t achieved

12. Feelings of jealousy over different things

Obviously, these are all very negative states of mind and it’s no small wonder that 100% of the time, people try to defend themselves from such states. No one likes feeling jealous or inadequate, especially if their spouse is involved.

It’s basic human nature to seek security and comfort, any way we can.

What kinds of defenses are found most especially in troubled marriages?

Like I said before, it’s completely natural to want to protect yourself from pain or hurt. However, if you’re overdoing it, you may be sacrificing the very integrity of your marriage by closing off your spouse.

Below are some common defenses that can be observed in rocky marriages:

1. Excessive Socializing – When a person feels that she has been cut off from the marriage by an unresponsive or uncommunicative husband or wife, he/she may seek social connection by over-focusing on another person (e.g. best friend) or social group (e.g. knitting club).

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2. Shutting Down - Another way to protect oneself from hurt is by being emotionally and mentally absent from a situation. For example, if a husband felt that his wife was criticizing his landscaping plans too much, he may decide to avoid talking to his wife completely to let the hurt dissipate.

However, this behavior will most likely cause the other party to act cold and uncommunicative as well. The result? A wide and cold gap between two people who failed to realize that talking about the issue was far better than completely shutting down.

3. Investing Time & Energy Elsewhere – This defense mechanism is most commonly found in people who live in constant fear of being left or abandoned by their spouses.

When a person fears isolation and loneliness, he/she may decide that it’s time to create a “fall back” plan – another person outside the relationship so that when everything crumbles to dust, there’s another person waiting outside the relationship.

Sadly, many cases of cheating occur because of this defense mechanism and people aren’t aware of the true roots of the behavior.

4. Becoming Addicted – Any form of addiction can help dull the pain of being in a marriage that seems to be falling apart.

The addiction becomes the focal point of a person’s existence so he won’t have to feel the pain of conflict. Logical thoughts are suspended and emotions are masked by the addiction so that self-gratification becomes the most important order of the day.

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